A new editorial on Tom’s Hardware advocates that there should be LAN support for Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3, and casts doubt on Blizzard’s stated reasons for not including it. Here’s a quote from near the end of the piece, since the start is fairly rambling.
Activision Blizzard will deny that ability with StarCraft II, and that’s really not fair. It’s not fair that legitimate customers—those who work hard and shell out the bucks for a new game during tough economic conditions—have no say on how—or where—they get to play the game. In one sense, that’s like Ford saying that your new truck can’t drive on dirt roads.
Obviously, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. There’s a lot of passion behind LAN play, and many gamers obviously reject the idea of playing without the support. Who can blame them? On a personal level, Activision Blizzard’s claim about piracy and security reasons seem bogus. The company wants its consumers to play on Battle.net only; it wants to know when and for how long gamers play the games. While this may sound like a conspiracy theory, there really doesn’t seem to a be a valid point for removing LAN without further explanation. Just how is LAN a security issue, and if that is indeed the case, how was that handled with previous StarCraft and Diablo titles which actually do offer LAN support? And how exactly is LAN a piracy issue? If the game must be activated through Battle.net, gamers could still skirmish offline.
Since the author seems to be asking that seriously, and it’s a fairly simple issue, I’ll answer. Blizzard wants multiplayer D3 or SC2 played through Battle.net since you need a valid CD key to play through Battle.net.
That said, there’s still plenty to debate about this issue. Will stripping out LAN support force people to buy the game instead of torrenting it from Pirate Bay? Will hackers turn out a patch to enable LAN the first day SC2 and/or D3 are on the market? Will bad publicity from this sort of anti-piracy measure cost the game some sales? We’ll get a preview since SC2 will be in stores long before Diablo 3. By the time D3 arrives, the fact that there’s no LAN support might be a huge scandal, or a forgotten piece of trivia.
Update: Some excellent comments on this one, on both sides of the issue: